Before juvenile delinquency got violent, the slingshot was considered to be the No. 1 item of the delinquent. Since that time when it rated as the top toy pest of American youth, it's hit the comeback trail in many areas in a manner that is downright respectable. Today the woods, and not the streets, is where it's being used.
The slingshot got its bad name because it was mostly a weapon for popping somebody you didn't like in the backside. It's still banned in many sections of the country today. But quite a few adults have discovered that it is a pretty sportsmanlike weapon for hunting small game. The slingshot fans have grown into a large though scattered bunch, with some of them even forming clubs. And they claim that their weapon is more sporting than the rifle or the bow and arrow, and a lot less dangerous to life and limb. You can get squirrels, rabbits, pheasant and quail in season—and before the season opens, if your aim is sharp, there's always a good mess of frogs' legs just waiting to be taken.
A KENTUCKY WINDAGE DEAL
Just how sharp your aim will get depends—as with everything else in sports—upon how much practice you put in on it. This hip-pocket weapon gives you no sights or arrows to guide your eye. It's on a sort of Kentucky windage basis. That's tougher on the hunter, easier on the squirrel. It follows, therefore, that the slingshot actually is more sportsmanlike than gun or bow.
One nice point about the slingshot is that it can be used with perfect safety in your basement or rumpus room. Just hang a sturdy piece of canvas over a strung piece of rope, then pin a readymade paper target on it (or paint your own target right on the canvas). You'll find that your round little ammo will plop gently to the floor in the same shape it was when you fired it. Or, if you want a fancier target than that, get hold of an old keg. Stuff a worn-out blanket in it, rolled into ball formation, or an old pillow. Then hang the target from the top of the keg's opening, let fly and no harm will be done to you, spectators or ammo.
A slingshotter doesn't even have to whittle his own weapon any more. They are professionally made nowadays in wood, plywood and aluminum. About three dollars will get you as good a one as you'd want.
For ammunition, the cheapest and probably the best is [7/16] steel ball. It can be bought in any machine shop. A dime, or a nickel, will get you most of a season's supply. However, there are some hip-pocket hunters who prefer to use regular No. 0 buckshot, which works just fine too.
One of the best slings that can be bought is the Wham-O Sportsman. It is made of plywood, which is very strong, and its powerful rubber bands make it accurate and highly effective.
But if you'd rather make your own, hark back to the technique of your father's or grandfather's day. They used to cut a three-pronged branch of sturdy quality—hickory or dogwood is best. A jackknife whittled it down to a nice stubby size. Then they tied the three prongs together, drawing in both the outside branches as tightly as possible and tying them to the middle one. The U-shape they achieved was very desirable to the finished product.
A slow oven baked it overnight, "setting" it in the desired shape. Then the center prong was sawed out, and two strips of inner tube or two rubber bands about [1/16] inch thick, [5/8] inch wide and 8 inches long attached. With a home-made sling like this, a good shooter could bring home the fixings for many a squirrel pie.
STEADY STANCE AND CAREFUL EYE
In shooting there's almost no difference between the stance taken with the sling and that taken with the bow and arrow. For best form, your body should be at absolute right angles to the target. Your feet should be spread apart to give you a firm stand. Distribute your weight evenly on both feet. Be steady and comfortable—then bring your pouch up to your right eye. Sight the target and, as you do, don't pull the right arm back, ever. Instead, push the left arm slowly forward. Always keep the shot cup at the level of your eye.
The legal open season for small game hunting with the slingshot, in most states, is the same as it is for archers. In other words you'll never have to worry about stray rifle shots, but you should be sure to check your local ordinances and find out if slingshots are permitted. And if you tackle the sport before you've become too good a marksman, there's another quarry around you. Bring a small bag along, and you can always beat the swifty squirrels at their own game: that is to say, fill the bag nice and full of nuts. Then, at least, nobody can say you came home empty-handed, can they?